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May 1, 2012
Over the weekend, the Hampton session of Nike's EYBL offered us plenty of information to digest and consider. After getting away and taking a look back out our notes from the weekend, here's a look at what we learned.
Wiggins was the man
The single top performer in Hampton was Andrew Wiggins of the CIA Bounce. Ranked No. 1 overall in the class of 2014, he's got as secure a grip as a prospect can possibly have on the top spot in his class at this point.
The 6-foot-7 small forward from Huntington (W.V.) Prep has always tantalized and teased with his athletic ability and hints of developing skill. Now, the 17 year-old shows much more than hints of skill on the basketball floor. He is vastly improved as a creator off the dribble, jump-shooter, passer and overall basketball player in general. Defensively he has taken the challenge and is learning to become a lockdown defender and make the most of his physical gifts on both sides of the floor.
Rumors have continued to swirl that Wiggins could make a jump to the class of 2013 and the "best player regardless of class" tag is starting to get thrown around for Wiggins. However, a move to 2013 is being denied by all close to him. Also, while Wiggins is a stud, we've become a bit too quick in judging the guys in the next class to be better than those in the one ahead of them. Comparing across different classes isn't easy and for now, the focus is best kept on where Wiggins stands in the class of 2014 and that's No. 1. It's not even a debate.
Johnson poised to make a big move
Later on this week at Rivals.com, we'll be updating our rankings for the class of 2014. One guy sure to make a big leap is 6-foot-10 center Dakari Johnson -- he currently checks in at No. 20 -- from Montverde (Fla.) Academy who plays in the EYBL with Each 1 Teach 1.
After following coach Kevin Boyle from Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick, Johnson had to sit out his sophomore year at Montverde as a transfer. A gigantic kid, Johnson could have easily gotten out of shape or moped about not being able to play. Instead, he got in the gym and worked on taking his already impressive game to a new level.
On the floor, Johnson plays with a level of physicality and understanding of how to use his body that creates flashbacks of when Al Jefferson was playing on the Nike circuit with the Jackson Panthers back in the summers of 2001, 2002 and 2003. He isn't just a bull, though, and has plenty of skill, improved athleticism and quickness and he even stepped out and hit some face-up 17 footers when he wasn't dominating on the interior.
Pick your point in 2014
The race for top point guard prospect in the class of 2014 is an interesting one. Which player somebody may prefer also depends a lot on how they view players. Do you want the guy who is a bit more of a combo guard with more athleticism, length and the dreaded "upside"? Or, do you prefer the more traditional point guard who whips passes around the perimeter, leads vocally and also scores if he's needed to.
Standing 6-foot-4 with long arms, plus athleticism and instincts to make plays happen at a high rate of speed while attacking the basket, Mudiay (currently ranked No. 3 in 2014) is more of a slasher/athlete who fits into the combo guard role. On the other hand, Jones (currently at No. 7 overall in 2014) is the classic "pure" point guard. The six-footer commands his team on each end of the floor, makes solid decisions, delivers pinpoint passes with either hand and has the shooting ability and level of creativity in the lane to be a very good scorer as well.
Having watched both of them in great detail and several different venues since they've burst onto the scene, it's hard to go wrong with either one. It's just a matter of personal preference at the position.
On the rise
Finally, let's take a look at some of the lesser talked about players at the EYBL who have most improved their stock over the course of the past few weeks.
For the Arkansas Wings, the development of Bobby Portis has been nothing short of sensational. It wasn't too long ago that the near 6-foot-10 big man was awkward and not all that productive. Now, he's quickly developing into one of the nation's premier big men in the class of 2013. The Arkansas commitment already jumped up to No. 56 in the national rankings but he's still got a long way to go and could ultimately end up challenging for five-star status.
When we saw JaJuan Johnson this winter at Memphis (Tenn.) Southwind, we knew that he had to be included in the 2013 Rivals150. Moved in at No. 109 in the latest update, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard is due for another boost and looks to be a four-star prospect thanks to his length, shooting, ability to attack and prowess on the defensive end.
California Supreme can lay claim to two of the nation's quickest rising and most talked about prospects. We started talking about Marcus Lee back in the winter and the 6-foot-9 big man from Antioch (Calif.) Deer Valley hasn't disappointed. He's still rough around the edges, but could be on his way to five-star status. Teammate Jordan Matthews a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Santa Monica (Calif.) High has always been a solid three-star. Now, he's going to be tough to keep out of the rankings and could push for a fourth star.
For the Georgia Stars, Donte Clark is a big, athletic and attacking combo guard. The 6-foot-4 product of Charlotte (N.C.) Kennedy Charter entered the 2013 rankings a few weeks ago by cracking the top 100. His explosive scoring off the dribble and size for a combo should allow him to make another nice jump.
Basically, there's never been anywhere but up for Damien Jones' stock to go. A little known big man from Baton Rouge (La.) Scotlandville Magnet entering the weekend, the 6-foot-9 junior's play for the Texas Titans opened up several eyes. He's not just big, long and athletic either. Jones hits jump-hooks with either hand, can run the floor and loves to contest shots. He looks like a sure bet to enter the 2013 Rivals150 when it next gets updated, probably in the four-star range.